ROCKTON - Despite graduating 12 seniors, Hononegah coach Christine Kuspa has the boys swimming team primed for another NIC-10 championship.
The Indians will seek their eighth consecutive NIC-10 title behind a team with just one senior. The conference meet will be held Saturday at Freeport.
"We are going to have to swim our best meet of the year," Kuspa said. "It should come down to us and Boylan. In the conference meet, you've really got to have a lot of depth to win it, so we'll be tested in that area."
An eighth straight crown would tie the girls volleyball team (1988-1995) for most consecutive titles won in school history.
Entering the season, Kuspa wasn't exactly sure what she had in her group.
"It's a little surprising what we've been able to accomplish," Kuspa said. "When you graduate as many seniors as we did, you know it's going to be a young squad. We knew it was going to be a tough season with a lot of learning. But we've got kids who are willing to work hard, and we'll see how things go this weekend."
Kuspa said the seniors Brett Jones and Aidan Berg have provided excellent leadership.
"Coming from a program that's been as successful as ours has been, those guys understand what it takes to win," Kuspa said. "They let the younger kids know when it's really time to get to work, and that's been super beneficial for us."
Sophomore Jalen Stimes, an honorable mention all-conference selection last season, has excelled in both the fly and the backstroke, while freshman Zain Miles has consistently placed near the top in virtually every event, despite having to come back from a broken leg suffered last January.
Kuspa said divers Daniel Rebban and Sam Praneis have also been critical to the team's success.
"If you are going to win these types of meets, you've got to have divers that do well," Kuspa said. "And both of those guys have performed very well for us all season."
The subject of a keeping the title streak alive certainly does make its way into conversation at practice.
"We spend a lot of time talking about goals," Kuspa said. "Swimming is a funny sport because it's a team sport, but you can't have team success without having individual success, too. So we have daily conversations about being mentally prepared and what it takes to have a great season."
Kuspa said the challenges are typical of that of a young team.
"We've got a lot of nerves going on before these meets," Kuspa said. "And the paperwork after the meet with the results doesn't always show what these kids are capable of. We've had a lot of ups and downs, and we've had some key swimmers go out with injuries. But that also has given other kids the chance to step up, and some have done that.
"Saturday, we just need to go event by event and see what happens. I really believe the meet is going to come down to the 400-free relay, which is the final event of the meet. It should be fun to watch."